By Dr. Hilary Booth
At around 2 or 3pm, do you experience the feeling that you’ve hit a wall? Your energy drops, you lose the ability to concentrate, and productivity grinds to a halt. This is usually the time of day that people grab their afternoon tea or coffee, and experience the dreaded carb and sugar cravings.
In this article, I’m going to address my top 5 reasons for why you may be experiencing mid-afternoon fatigue, along with tips on how to overcome those 2pm blahs.
1. You aren’t getting restorative sleep
Even after 8 hours of sleep per night, some people still don’t wake feeling refreshed. This may be due to hormone imbalance, a restless partner, stress, or any number of other reasons. I would encourage you to book an appointment if you aren’t getting restorative sleep so that we can get to the bottom of it.
However, here are a few quick tips to help improve sleep quality:
- Get blackout blinds or wear a sleep mask. We need full darkness to produce melatonin, which helps us to settle into a deep sleep.
- Reduce clutter in the bedroom. This helps our mind to relax more deeply.
- No electronics, including TV and cell phones, at least 30 minutes before bed.
2. Your blood sugar has crashed
Many of us eat a carb-rich lunch. This can include anything from pasta, to a sandwich, to a bowl of rice with veggies. These foods have a high glycemic index, meaning these foods are broken down and absorbed into the blood stream quickly. This causes a spike in blood sugar levels that subsequently crashes 1-2 hours after eating. We then feel tired and crave sweets when our blood sugar crashes.
Instead, try eating meals with more fats, fibre and protein. I recommend sprinkling hemp or chia seeds on your meal to add fibre and protein. Nuts, seeds, and avocado are also great ways to lower the glycemic index of a meal. These foods slow down the rate at which sugars are absorbed into the blood stream, and prevent the spike-then-crash pattern from happening.
3. You have a gluten intolerance
Gluten intolerance can cause fatigue, difficulty focusing, memory loss and “brain fog”. These symptoms become most evident at 2-3pm after you have eaten gluten at lunch, and then you are faced with completing challenging tasks in the afternoon.
I recommend a trial of 2 weeks without gluten to see if your mid-afternoon fatigue lifts. Alternately, we offer food intolerance testing of 96 foods, including gluten, to determine whether gluten may be the cause of your low energy levels.
4. Your cortisol cycle is off-balance
Cortisol is known as our “stress hormone”, but it is also responsible for tons of other processes in the body, including giving us the energy to get through each day. Cortisol levels are highest in the morning and steadily decline until bedtime, with a mini-second peak around 2-3pm.
People who are under chronic stress experience adrenal fatigue, where their adrenal glands no longer produce enough cortisol. These people feel especially tired at 2-3pm because they don’t experience that mid-afternoon cortisol boost. Other symptoms of abnormal cortisol rhythms include abdominal weight gain, low energy, non-refreshing sleep or difficulty sleeping, frequent cold and flu, and cravings for salty foods.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms we offer cortisol testing, as well as treatment, to replenish the adrenal glands and get your cortisol rhythm back on track.
5. You’re dehydrated
Afternoons can get really busy, and we often forget to keep drinking water after lunch. We need at least two to three litres of water per day, if not more! Fatigue is one of the key signs of dehydration.
Try setting an alarm on your phone or computer that rings once per hour, and keeping a glass of water with you at all times. Before the alarm goes off each hour, you should have consumed at least 250mL of water. This helps you to form good habits so that eventually you won’t need the alarm at all.